Arkansas State Red
Preview 2008 - Defense
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What you need to know:
The best defense in the Sun Belt
last year wasn't great at stopping offenses cold, but it was
good at keeping teams from blowing up. Now there are issues with
the entire secondary needing to be replaced, including the
tremendous safety tandem of Tyrell Johnson and Khyyam Burns, but
things should be fine if Cordarious Mingo and the JUCO transfers
can shine right away. The linebacking corps should be good, even
though it's woefully undersized, while the line needs to figure
out how to get into the backfield after being the worst in the
Sun Belt in sacks and tackles for loss.
Tackles: Ben Owens, 96
Evan Van Dolah, 2
Interceptions: M.D. Jennings, 1
Star of the defense: Senior LB Ben Owens
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore SS
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Cordarious Mingo
Best pro prospect: Junior DE Alex Carrington
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Owens, 2) DE Brian
Flagg, 3) Carrington
Strength of the defense: Linebackers, front seven
Weakness of the defense:
Pass rush, defensive back starting experience
Projected Starters: The line needs to start generating more of a
push into the backfield, and that starts with 6-5, 280-pound junior
Alex Carrington who made 38 tackles with a sack and five tackles for
loss. He managed to earn honorable mention All-Sun Belt honors. He has
great size and a good burst, and now he needs to become a far bigger
Back on the other side is senior Brian Flagg after a 44 tackles,
1.5 sack, 5.5 tackle for loss season. At 6-2 and 243 pounds, he's a
decent-sized playmaker who has grown from being a decent linebacker
prospect into a good end. Showing no ill-effects from missing all of
2006, he still didn't grow into the top pass rusher expected.
6-2, 290-pound junior Khari Mays is a big presence on the nose
making 17 tackles. While he's strong and a decent anchor for everyone
else to work around, he's not going to get into the backfield on a
regular basis and he has to make more plays against the run.
The new starter to the mix is sophomore Bryan Hall, an undersized
6-2, 260-pound tackle prospect who made ten stops as a reserve. While
he's small, he's a quick option who should do more for the lousy pass
Projected Top Reserves: The rising star of the
line is Bamidele Ayoola, a 6-2, 244-pound redshirt freshman who
had a fantastic spring and showed off the speed and quickness missing in
Carrington. Ayoola will likely find himself in a specialist's role.
The team's best reserve is 6-1, 245-pound junior Stanley Wakwe on
the end. The former Arkansas State transfer turned in a nice first
season making 23 tackles and three tackles for loss, but he wasn't much
of a pass rush. With his size and quickness he should be in the
backfield more often.
Watch Out For ... Ayoola. The coaching staff would
rather not be forced to manufacture a pass rush from back seven and
needs more from the line. Ayoola has the potential to be a third-down
star when turned loose.
Strength: Experience. With three good starters and
with Flagg a smart, tough player who should do far more, the potential
is there for a big turnaround. Carrington might be limited, but he's a
good one to work around.
Weakness: Pass rush. There's no real reason
whatsoever the line should only have come up with 13 sacks and 56
tackles for loss. With more experience, and with a player like Flagg,
there should be far more pressure on the passers.
Outlook: For the last two seasons the line has
been pathetic at getting into the backfield and things likely aren't
going to dramatically change. There's good experience, the potential for
decent depth on the ends, and good production against the run, but the
backup tackles are extremely light and will desperately need star
recruit Gregory McCall to be a player early on. Power teams
should be successful up the gut, but overall the line should be better
... but not by a whole bunch.
Projected Starters: Gone is star Koby McKinnon on the
strongside, and now it'll be up to sophomore Darius Glover to try
to replace the 101 tackles and all-around play. Only 6-2 and 210 pounds,
he's a small, tough player who made two tackles as a true freshman. He
should get into the backfield without a problem.
6-2, 223-pound senior Ben Owens is back in the middle after
finishing third on the team with 96 tackles and three tackles for loss.
He has excellent speed and range, and now he has to use it a little more
to get into the backfield and be more of a factor in pass coverage.
Also returning to a starting spot is 6-0, 205-pound sophomore Javon
McKinnon on the weakside. A big find in the starting lineup, the
speedster made 41 tackles. However, he did next to nothing in pass
coverage and didn't use his speed to get into the backfield. He was also
inconsistent registering 11 of his stops in one game, the loss to
Projected Top Reserves: Battling with Glover for
time on the strongside will be 6-3, 210-pound redshirt freshman
Demario Davis. A good defensive recruit last year, he was also a
good high school wide receiver. His athleticism will make him an
6-0, 215-pound junior Greg Hardy was a key reserve making 38
tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. He saw starting time in two games
working in the middle behind Owens, and while he's undersized, he can
hold his own.
Watch Out For ... Owens to grow into an All-Sun Belt
superstar. He has the athleticism and the ability to do even more after
a great first season as a starter. With McKinnon gone, it's Owens'
Strength: Quickness. This is a very fast, very
active group that'll be all over the field. There needs to be more done
against the pass and more overall pressure into the backfield, and this
corps has the athleticism to do it.
Weakness: Size. The six main linebacker prospects
combine to average around 210 pounds per man. The Red Wolves basically
have big corners playing linebacker.
Outlook: This is a veteran crew that was
surprisingly strong against the run considering all the new faced last
year. There are playmakers here, like Owens and McKinnon, but it's still
a young group, even with all the experience, that'll make a few more
mistakes before it gets better. Speed and athleticism will have to
overcome the lack of size.
Projected Starters: Gone are Tyrell Johnson and Khayyam
Burns, the greatest safety tandem in the history of the Sun Belt. No,
you don't just replace two players of that caliber. Sophomore M.D.
Jennings has the toughest job having to replace Johnson, the Sun
Belt Defensive Player of the Year, but he has some experience making 26
tackles and an interception as a key backup. While he's a good tackler
and a physical player, he's one of the nation's lightest strong safeties
at 6-0 and 165 pounds.
Trying to take over for Burns, who made 97 tackles and six tackles for
loss, will be junior Evan Van Dolah, a 6-2, 199-pound flash of
lightning with next-level athleticism. He wasn't able to get on the
field too often with Burns such a rock, but he did manage to come up
with 31 tackles and two sacks.
Almost certain to step in and become a starting No. 1 corner from day
one will be JUCO superstar Cordarious Mingo. The 5-11,
195-pounder was a first team NJCAA All-American who was recruited by
LSU, Florida, Oklahoma, and other BCS schools and could be an instant
star of the secondary. He's a great talent with tremendous speed.
Looking to take over on the other side is junior Daylan Walker, a
solid backup last year who made 30 tackles with three broken up passes.
He's not big at 5-9 and 166 pounds and will have to fight to get the job
on the right side, but he'll be a factor.
Projected Top Reserves: Senior Dominique
Williams was mainly a safety when he started out his career but is
now an option at left corner. The 5-10, 170-pounder made 16 tackles and
broke up three passes, and while he's not a lockdown defender, he's
It might take about a game before JUCO transfer Walter Moody
takes over a starting corner spot. He's only 5-11 and 175 pounds but
he's a big hitter and a strong coverman who's dangerous with the ball in
Sophomore Leroy Trahan started out his career at San Bernardino
College making six interceptions and 29 tackles. Yet another small,
quick ASU corner, he'll work on the right side early on.
Watch Out For ... Mingo. A major recruiting coup,
Mingo might have been a key factor in the LSU secondary this year and he
could become the defense's new star.
Strength: The JUCO transfers. There's a chance
Mingo, Moody and Trahan are all in the starting four at some point early
on. These three have the talent to make the secondary shine.
Weakness: Starting experience. There are enough
players who saw playing time last year to step in and immediately make
an impact, but it might take a little while for everything to come
together. Losing Johnson and Burns will sting no matter how well the new
Outlook: For the second year in a row the pass
defense was excellent. Having a safety tandem in Johnson and Burns was
the main reason, but the entire corps did a good job. Now the Red Wolves
are starting from square one needing three JUCO transfers to play big
roles right away while praying that last year's backups can shine in the
Projected Starters: It's the third straight
year for the tandem of PK Josh Arauco and punter Brent Shrable.
Arauco, a junior, improved greatly last season hitting 15 of 23 field
goals while showing far better range. He's not going to blast a
55-yarder, but he can be counted on from 45 yards and in.
Schrable, a senior, is a former linebacker who also improved from 38
yards per kick in 2006 to 41.7 yards per boot last year. He's not great
at pinning teams deep, but he isn't bad at hanging it up in the air.
Kevin Jones is a strong punt returner averaging 11.5 yards per
try, improving greatly after struggling in 2006. Brandon Thompkins
is one of the nation's best all-around return men averaging 18.6
yards on the five punt returns he had a shot at and 21.7 yards per
Watch Out For ... Arauco to get a few more long
shots. He wasn't bad from beyond 40 yards hitting three of six shots,
but he topped out at 45 yards. With his experience he'll get a shot at a
50-yarder this year.
Strength: The return game. A major, painful
weakness in 2006, now it'll be among the best in America. Thompkins is
fantastic whenever he gets the ball and Jones has improved by leaps and
Weakness: Big legs. Shrable isn't going to get the
team out of trouble while Arauco's range is limited.
Outlook: The special teams made the biggest
improvement of any unit on the team and it should be a strength again.
As long as Arauco and Shrable are consistent, and if Jones and Thompkins
do what they did last year, ASU will have a major advantage. The
coverage units are solid.